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coverpic flag US - California - Full Moon 124 - 11/05/06

The Mars Volta
Universal/Gold Standard Labs

There was a very secluded and blasphemous sect of musical believers that swore Frances The Mute was the best album of 2005. Interestingly enough, these quiet opinions were not shouted from the mouths of loyalists of 2002's Tremulant EP or 2003's debut LP De-Loused in the Comatoreum. These cheers were delivered from blind sided eclectic enthusiasts who never saw anything like Frances coming. They are rock and roll Lutherans with a tangible point: Frances the Mute is everything that a sophomore triumph should be-a rabidly diverse, abandoning expansion of values with no retreat to nostalgia. Although De-Loused in the Comatoreum had quick punches and fast hooks in a compelling narrative, but Frances the Mute made 30-minute guitar burning concertos a thing of brute beauty. It's a compelling work that possesses a firm claim to the best follow up album in a decade chuck full of much applauded debuts (The Strokes' Is This It?, Arctic Monkeys' Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, Arcade Fire's Funeral, and one can only guess how many blow jobs Be Your Own Pet is going get when they put out their self titled debut).

Amputechture will be Mars Volta's first departure from concept albums. It's a wise and comfortable move keeping in mind they were the world's best punk band before this costume (I know it's hard to believe). Yet their idea of cranking out singles seems to be no different than writing an opera-the songs are still sixteen minute long enterprises of digital age noise and unconscionable Latin inspired beat patterns.

They shine like crazy diamonds from the very get-go of "Vicarious Atonement". Spurring dangerous sporadic razor sharp guitar riff fragments it has a quiet, lingering, yet choreographed quality like P-Funk's original take "Maggot Brain". It liquidates quickly into grand piano blues lines nearly mimicking "Treat" off the first Santana album. A worthy introduction lubricated into an enticed King Crimson sodomizing the chorus of Jeff Buckley's "Lover, You Should've Come Over". This is "Tetragammaton", a meaningless title that documents the first time the Mars Volta have tried to be epic the Coheed & Cambria way: turning re-arranging the score to the next Final Fantasy game into marching, sci-fi, battle field punk.

Amputechture is far less disorienting than Frances the Mute, so it loses even more of the fun. The best track is "Asilos Magdelina" - a classic Spanish guitar ballad that gives psychedelic dreams of ewoks a break and lets acoustic purity take the wheel. The hallucinogens kick in and we're reminded of the last 2 and a half minutes of "The Widow" alt-rock radio never played. As for the rest of the second half, they resort to looking back-something they can't afford to abuse. On the cascaded suite of "Viscera Eyes" and "Day of The Baphomets" the horns arrangements and stop-go guitar work hit too close on the "21st Century Schizoid Man" bulls-eye. If it wasn't so goddamn exciting you could hate it.

No matter whether or not they're discovering untouched potential from their debut or gaining closer to their seventies algebraic heroes, it's nothing Mars Volta fans haven't heard before. De-Loused and Tremulant fans rejoice! Amputechture is such a viable and worthy hard rock album that it wouldn't be entirely shame for the Mars Volta to put out Amputechtures every year 'til they retire. They are and will remain hard rock's monster to be reckoned with. But what of that mentioned clan of Frances admirers who believe that there is an infinite of prog-rock riffs that don't just sit idly by and amuse-but rape very senses? Will they be satisfied with this reinforcement of the Mars Volta sound? The prospect of a blazing third album that doesn't chart any new galactic territory? Eh...

Copyright © 2006 Matthew DeMello e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Mars Volta article/review: The Bedlam in Goliath.

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